The arrival of Europeans to North America meant the near-total extinction of wolves.
In 1630, a mere ten years after arriving on the continent, the Massachusetts Bay Colony gave a bounty for every wolf killed.
Killing wolves reached its height in the late 1800s and didn’t abate until the early 1900s.
Both the federal government and ordinary people killed wolves using poisons, traps, guns, and snares.
In the 1940s and 1950s, wolves had gone from 48 lower states.
The 1973 passage of the Endangered Species Act is probably the only thing that prevented the gray wolf from disappearing altogether.
Wolf compared to Human
In many ways, wolves are more human-like than many of us can imagine. They have royal dynasties which rise and fall just like ours. They wage wars over land. They practise politics, staging coups d’état to turf out brutal dictators–the pack having already chosen an heir (or heiress) apparent. Wolves fight duels, sometimes, to death. Yet wolves can be gentle, empathetic, even heroic. The life and times of a wolf pack is a tale as chock-full of triumphs, defeats, and bitter sorrows as any soap opera.
Tip: American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession, by Nate Blakeslee (2017), is a mighty fine read. If video is more your thing, then watch this six-minute Q&A with Blakeslee instead.
Just like us?
We share many things in common with wolves.
We’re both able to adapt to changing climates and different habitats.
Like us, wolves can live in almost all habitats: forests, tundras, prairies, deserts, mountains, and swamps. Wolves can tolerate temperatures as low as -70°F to over 120°F.
Like us, wolves live in groups and find strength in numbers.
Wolf families have a dominant male and female, just like human families have parents, who make decisions and oversee discipline in the pack.
Like us, wolves have to learn to live in peace in their family group, or they get banished.
Wolves live full emotional lives, very like us. They play, love, care for their children and grieve for their deceased.
Like humans, wolves can have different personalities. Some are leaders, others are lovers, and some are lonely.
Another thing we share is that humans and wolves even like the same kinds of meat. We both love the taste of cattle, sheep, elk, and deer.
Humans and wolves are territorial. The most common cause of wolf death is wolves killing wolves, often in turf wars.
Similar to humans killing many people in wars, wolves also kill wolves.
Or not like us?
Which is stronger, wolf or man?
People are physically stronger than wolves. If you compare people who live a more physical life than those from Western Europe and the Americas, they will easily defeat any wolf in a one-to-one battle.
The main strength of a wolf lies in its mouth and sharp teeth, but humans can call on four relatively strong limbs and, of course, matchless intelligence to defeat a single wolf.
Of course, a single human is absolutely no match for a pack of wolves. Working as a team, a pack of wolves will defeat any human unless the latter is well-armed with modern weaponry.
How alike are our anatomies?
- Circulatory System
Wolves and humans both use blood vessels and arteries to carry blood to and from the heart. There are no significant differences between the circulatory systems of wolves and humans.
- Digestive System
Here, there are some noticeable differences between wolves and humans. For one thing, humans have flat and only semi-sharp teeth. This design is excellent for helping us to chew various kinds of food, which makes up our omnivorous diet. (Imagine how boring it would be if all we could eat were nuts and berries!)
Wolves’ teeth are sharp, designed to cut and shred meat effortlessly.
- Excretory System
Wolves and humans excrete through two major systems, one for solids and the other for liquids. Hence, there are no significant differences in the systems of either.
- Muscular System
Both muscular systems share a lot of similarities, with tissues providing much the same functionality. However, in humans, our forelimbs can rotate, unlike the forelimbs of wolves, which are locked in place.
- Nervous System
Wolves and humans have very similarly structured nervous systems. We both have a spine, a brain, and a cerebellum, all performing the same actions to control muscle activity and relay information to the brain. To be fair, though, this is a system repeatedly seen across many species in the animal kingdom.
- Respiratory System
Wolves and humans both receive oxygen through breathing. Oxygen is absorbed into the blood through the trachea in the lungs. There are no major differences in the respiratory systems between wolves and humans.
- Skeletal System
Both skeletal systems have a skull, bones, femurs, and a set of ribs. These bones protect vital organs and give shape to the bodies in both species. The Gray Wolf, however, does not have a clavicle. The clavicle in the human allows the arm to move away from its body.
Compared to humans, how big are wolves?
Many people don’t realize that wolves are larger than they think. Male wolves can weigh from 70 to 140 pounds, while females typically weigh 60 to 100 pounds.
The shoulder height of wolves is 26 to 34 inches. Wolves’ overall length (nose tip to tail tip) is between 4.5 and 6 feet.
Wolves appear much bigger than they really are due to their thick fur.
The way of the wolf: mating
The mating season can last from January to April, with the alpha male having five to seven days of fertile.
The alpha couple may temporarily leave the pack to avoid interruptions from other members of the pack.
To avoid overpopulation, the alpha couple is almost always the only one to mate.
Frequently Asked Questions About Wolve Compared to Human
Is it true that only the alpha pair in a pack mate?
Subordinate pairs will find it impossible to mate if the alpha female is aggressive towards the other ‘flirtatious’ females in a pack, or males who try to–or actually–mate with other females are ejected from the pack by the alpha male. However, in extraordinary circumstances, subordinate pairs might also mate.
Is it true that wolves “fall in love” when they are about to mate?
It is dangerous to ascribe human emotions to animals. However, when an alpha pair are about to mate, they go through a period of intense courtship that has many parallels to ‘falling in love. ‘Courting’ pairs sleep close together and often touch each other. They make quiet, wailing sounds and constantly touch their noses. They nibble at each other’s fur and even walk close together. Like human lovers, they avoid the company of others and only want to be with one another.
Afterword: wolf compared to human
Perhaps the most important difference between wolves and humans is that wolves only kill for food or to protect themselves. Humans kill for fun.